Finesse Swimbaits for Fall and Winter
One of my all-time favorite ways to catch fish is throwing a miniature swimbait, I catch a lot of fish doing it. The reason it works so well is that this time of year, the fish are feeding on small - two or three-inch shad. You’ll often see doing what I call “roosting” on the surface in the evening. That’s when you see the shad flickering on the surface in the evening and that little bitty shad is what the bass are feeding, and that’s why the little miniature swimbaits work well.
I’ve got three baits that I like to use, and it’s a lot like choosing crankbaits. You know how some crankbaits have a wide wobble and they’re really doing a lot? Well, swimbaits are the same way. The action is determined by how they make the tail paddle on it and that’s going to determine how much action you get.
Before we get into baits, let’s start with the jighead that I’ve been using - the Finesse EyeZ. It has this little extended piece underneath the plastic that makes it butt up to the plastic better, and you have a good keeper on it to hold the bait. Most of the time I’m going to use anything from an 1/8 oz to a 3/8 oz when I want to get more distance or get it down deeper. I use the 3/16-ounce size the most but will adjust with the location and response of the fish.
It’s important if you’re using an Elaztech bait to use Z-Man jigheads. I’ve found that Z-Man jigheads work better with Z-Man plastics because they have the right keeper for the bait and they usually try to match the circumference of the jig head to the plastic body - so it just seems to work a little bit better.
Rigging is easy with Elaztech if you’ll be careful to enter the bait with the hook point in the center of the bait. In the center there is an open core in there that will help you rig your plastics up on the hook right. If you do it right, the lure slides easily, but if it’s not in that hollow core it will twist and get all janky and bunched up.
The most important part when you are rigging Elaztech you see you got this keeper - the little 45-degree metal keeper. It’s important to take your Elaztech and pull it up and over the little barb for the bait to rig snugly and stay on the hook.
The good thing about Elaztech is that if you’re not happy with the way it looks it’s not like traditional plastic. It’s durable, take it off and rig it again, Elaztech will be forgiving if you’ll be patient with it. You just keep rigging it till you get it on there just right.
Okay, now on to the lures. I’ve got three that I like to use, and it depends on the conditions. The one I use the most is the three-inch Z Man Minnowz and Opening Night is probably my favorite color, the pearlescence on the back really glows and the clear body mimics a shad well. I’ve used this from medium-stained to crystal gin clear water, and for some reason it even shows up in muddy water.
There are a lot of bodies out there – the Keitech style baits that are good when the fish are really biting, but in the fall, when water is starting to cool down – and especially in the winter - you don’t want a lot of action. Instead, you want something that is really, really finessy and looks more lifelike.
That’s one of the reasons I like the MinnowZ a little bit better than a lot of the other swimbaits available. If people really knew how dangerous and how versatile this bait is I think you’d see a lot more people throwing it.
I’ve not really talked about it a whole lot, but I’ve caught a lot of fish on this guy all the way from October to when they are in the post-spawn, That’s the three-inch MinnowZ and that’s usually my first grab.
My second choice is if I know the fish have gotten a lot of pressure or a major cold front has come through cooling the water is the Z-Man Slim Swimz. You can look at the body compared to the MinnowZ and see that’s it a lot slimmer and this does a couple things for you, the action is going to be a lot different. It’s going to be even more finessy and since it’s a thinner body it will get down in the water column a little better.
I like the Slim SwinZ if they’re not schooling as much or in that top 10-percent of the water column and I need to get it down 12 to 15 feet. I also like it if they are just feeding on smaller shad, because it’s just a smaller profile, it just works better to throw the Slim Swinz. One of my go-to colors is called Bad Shad - it’s real translucent.
Slim SwimZ has a tight quiver that is super finessy and just barely turns. When things get tough, just switch to the Slim Swimz they’ll say, “Man look at that, I’m going to jump on there and eat that like an Oreo - it looks real good.”
This last option, and I have to give credit where credit is due, my Dad turned me onto this. If you’ve watched any of my videos you’ve probably heard me talk about this bait before but maybe not in this context….
In the wintertime when the water temperatures have bottomed into the upper 30’s to low 40’s and fish start to suspend a lot is when you have to be more peculiar about your baits. If it’s doing too much and they are really not likely to bite it.
My Dad turned me onto this little technique. He still calls this a swimbait, but this is not really classified as a swimbait, but I take the StreakZ on a 3/16 oz Finesse EyeZ jig head and rig it up just like I do my other swimbaits.
This is the ultimate finesse presentation. I Throw it out over ditches, brush piles, and through fish I see schooling on bait and just slowly reel it back just keeping the line tight with subtle deadstick action. It has really no action at all and that’s important because the colder the water gets the less action you’ll see in the bait fish as well.
This ss deadly in winter, they will hit this in times when they will not hit anything else. It seems silly but I promise you this is stuff that I really count on day in and day out. I keep the same colors, Opening Night and Bad Shad throwing it on the same jig head but with this one, it’s all about the context of what you’re fishing. Water temperature, pressure on the lake, the size of the bait fish. The StreakZ on a jig head with a steady retrieve and no action works really good when a regular paddle tail swimbait won’t catch fish.
Give these three swimbaits a try. You should be able to pick up any of this stuff at Academy Sports and Outdoors. They’ll get you hooked up with the right stuff and you’ll catch a lot of fish this fall.